Community engagement, in a nutshell, is all about crafting a coherent set of processes to nurture the members and investing in member development. An engaged community drives stronger customer relationships and member retention which directly impacts loyalty and lifetime value.
It is a general notion that community engagement requires the initial effort in terms of content seeding and activities driven by community managers. Eventually, depending on the lifecycle of the community, the bulk of the engagement is organic.
However, this is far from practical -- community engagement requires continuous effort, meticulous planning, and grit. The conversations around a brand community never sustain organically and rarely originates naturally. As a community manager, you are the captain of the ship and the onus is on you to move the community towards healthy engagement by building authentic connections with the members.
At Bettermode, our customer success managers are always with the customers lending a helping hand, providing guidance, recommendations, and sometimes just the right push to improve the engagement in the community.
Considering that each community is unique, the engagement tactics also vary and are specifically crafted to serve the lifecycle stage of the community. Before moving to the key community engagement strategies, let's first clearly understand why community engagement is important.
Why community engagement tactics are important
The outcomes of community engagement are simply endless - however, the key factor is that it is closely tied to the end goal of the business objective for community building. It develops and nurtures the sense of belonging in the community which results in member retention and brand loyalty.
Without the engagement, the members would gradually lose the connection and it would become increasingly hard to move them through different lifecycle stages of the community.
YouTuber, Rosianna Halse Rojas discusses how online communities can be a channel for intense engagement on the web.
Top community engagement tactics
As discussed earlier, there are no clear-cut engagement tactics that can be applied to any community at any kind of lifecycle stage. However, the following ideas give a sense of the possibilities and help you build on top of these by adding a touch of creativity.
Build an open platform for expression
Every single community thrives on user-generated content and the members are the most valuable resources a community can have. So, why not give a secure space to the members to express themselves?
Coming to the first rule of community building, i.e., it's all about them (not you) — always allow members to share what they are working on, what matters to them, their story, and experiences. This can be a great way to cultivate networks by helping members discover peers with similar passions or journeys. After all, stronger networks build stronger communities and people are always eager to get updates from people they follow.
The members of your community are more likely to stick to your community if they believe that their voice is valued and others care about what they have to say. At Bettermode, for example, our success managers often recommend our customers to ensure that they have a space in the community that resonates with an introduction, first-look feedback, etc.
It is great to offer the members a place to express themselves, however, there should be control on what people can post and cannot post. That's when your community and content guidelines come into the picture.
Each community has its own set of content policies and engagement rules. However, the moderators should not be rigidly forcing the rules and rely more on common sense. For instance, trust your community members to take care of the community guidelines. If it doesn’t work, moderators can message privately and then, take appropriate action.
Also, it is time to put the community at the center. So, when a member posts something and it is useful, then it certainly makes sense to allow the content (even though it might be self-promotion or not). The yardstick here should be about value delivery to the community instead of putting a blanket ban on something.
Ideally, the community space should invoke a sense of confidence in the members — their contribution is valued and they can truly post anything valuable without worrying about getting punished.
Activities based on member cohorts
There is a range of members in your community -- right from lurkers to super users. And each category of these members expects something different from your community.
So, your engagement must also be tailored to suit their needs. If you have direct integration with communication and user engagement tools such as Intercom, you can easily log the member activities inside the tool. This would help you further segment the members based on the level of engagement.
For example, your superusers would want more exclusivity and better access to the team. The members who are not engaged can be motivated by showcasing the benefits of the privileges of superusers.
Run competitions and reward
Conduct occasional competitions in the community in a healthy and friendly manner. The objective of the community can be directing certain user behavior, collecting ideas, or rapid content generation. Run the competition and reward the winners with something tangible -- a great way to achieve this in the online community is to offer virtual coins that are closely tied to your payment processing. That way the members can redeem the coins to purchase your products and services.
Here is an example of our client, SmartNora (a snoring solution) running a campaign in their community to source stories from their members around snoring:
Add game mechanics
Gamification is yet another tried and tested way to improve engagement. You can promote quality contributions in the community by setting up gamification tools such as badges, reputation scores, and leaderboards.
A popular example is the Product Hunt leaderboard that was created by a community member to showcase the top products, hunters (members who submit new products), and makers.
In an online community, the gamification rules could be set up for the points that members earn for submitting answers, asking questions, etc. Another example is Quora that rewards the members with badges as "top writer of the year".
Act quickly and positively
When the members post their ideas, issues, share feedback, and offer suggestions to improve the community or the product itself be highly receptive. Ensure that they know you have indeed recorded their concern and swiftly convey that your team is looking into it.
It is a general practice to not have an unanswered question in the community for more than 24 hours.
Entertain with fun content
If your community can add joy to the lives of the members, then it is of significantly high value. Make it a practice for your internal team to share fun and interesting content. Never overload the community with promotional content. Also, it can be a good practice to imbibe fun elements in the general posts.
Here is an example of a community for healthcare students (yes, quite a serious topic) running on Bettermode that keeps things light-hearted by adding humor.
Plan activities to keep members invested
Ensure that your community members are invested in your community (preferably with time). For instance, keep a solid mechanism to encourage the members to complete their profile and add additional services that help you with engagement (e.g., connecting Telegram channel).
You can run monthly competitions to reward the members with the most creative profile. This is yet another tactic to encourage members to open up the new members and allow the existing members to find people with whom they would ideally connect.
Onboard new members
Onboarding new members of your community is a critical socialization process. Note that I have used the term socialization as it is very similar to going to a place, meeting new people, and adopting behavior relevant to that place.
The right onboarding program is not a one-shoe-fits-all type of program. It varies depending on the type of community, the goals associated with the onboarding process, and a certain level of expectations with which members join. Managing those expectations with the right expertise and specialization is what makes the onboarding process efficient. The right onboarding process will have the following characteristics:
Simple, precise, and valuable information
Must have a mechanism to drive member engagement
Introduce the community and content guidelines along with the culture
Provide standardized and personalized onboarding instructions
There are several ways for onboarding new community members -- from introduction threads and email sequences to guided tours, buddy programs, and a welcome video.
Use engaging content format
Videos have proven to be highly engaging when compared with text and images. That's the reason, popular social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn are heavily pushing for video content and trying to replicate the success of YouTube.
Videos instantly capture the attention of the audience and make it really easy for the content creator to relay the messages.
70+ techniques to boost community engagement
We explored a list of some of the common community engagement tactics, now it's time to check out the really long list of engagement techniques.
While the members of a community share a common passion, each community is unique because of the distinctive experiences, aspirations, goals, and the expected value. This means the community engagement strategy would be tailored based on the community and there is no all-encompassing strategy.
That said this exhaustive guide for community engagement will inspire you and help you mold your strategy by selecting what could work for your community.
Engaging with the community starts with a deep understanding of the members because it is always about the members, not your business. The business benefit that you gain from community engagement is the by-product of the value you deliver to the members. Read on to explore how you can better understand the dynamics of the community and lay a strong foundation for engagement.
Discuss with a selected number of members and interview them to learn about their challenges and the direction they want the community to take.
Extract the common elements from the interviews and craft a survey (e.g., polls) to validate the ideas on the broader set of members.
Establish a process to continuously connect with members at different community lifecycle stages to understand the needs. For example, someone who is a lurker would have a different need in comparison to someone who is a prolific contributor.
Consider expanding the coverage of your community into a wider range of topics as your community evolves with time and grows. For instance, a community dedicated to marketing practices can also introduce a section for lifehacks. But, this decision needs to be taken only after deeply studying member behavior.
Listening to the customers and understanding their needs is crucial; however, you must showcase that you are going to act on the feedback. This is the stepping stone for cultivating trust and closing the feedback loop.
Act on the feedback, take steps to incorporate the changes and communicate the same.
Showcase how you take care of data privacy and regulations by implementing various compliance tools (e.g., Cookie Consent and features to comply with GDPR).
If you are processing payments, emphasize the security guidelines (e.g., encryption level) you are following and showcase the official badges or logo of your payment processor (e.g., Stripe).
Create polls asking for feedback on different topics related to your product. For example, you could ask which third-party integration your customers need the most.
Ensure that members are empowered to have their say in the direction of the community and show that their voice is always heard.
When a guest arrives at your home, you don’t simply open the door -- you greet them and show them around. Also, you ensure they are comfortable and offer your help if they need anything. This applies to your communities as well.
Send a welcome email to greet the members and showcase important information.
Create a guided tour to introduce the key functionalities, features, and guidelines to the members.
Leverage the insight generated by interviewing and surveying the member to craft a message that would appeal to the new members. Use a banner to prominently display the message.
Create prompts or a clear path for the new members to introduce themselves and post their first content. For example, an introduction thread or a group for new members to post content.
Keep a solid mechanism to encourage the members to complete their profile and add additional services that help you with engagement (e.g., connecting Telegram channel).
Create a video explaining your community, what the members would gain from the community, how to conduct and contribute to the community. You can add testimonials in the video to reinforce the value and leverage social proof.
Set up automated email sequences to introduce key elements of your community in small chunks.
You can also create a buddy program in which a new member can get guidance from experienced members.
Give voice to members
Creating a safe and encouraging space for the members to express themselves is paramount since the user-generated content is what would drive your community.
Create channels (e.g., “speak your mind, “show and tell”) in the community to enable the members to share what matters to them, their experiences, post feedback on the community as well as your offerings.
Create a space for the members to showcase their best tips based on the domain in which you are operating. For example, if a Community of Practice operates in the customer success space, a dedicated space could be created to share the best tips on churn management.
Encourage users to ask good quality questions and emphasize that asking questions can be as effective as posting questions. This can help when you have members who are not confident that their expertise can deliver the right answers.
Integrate the community into your website and product so it is frictionless for the user of your product to participate in discussions (without separately opening up the community website).
Notifications are pivotal when it comes to getting your members back to the community to improve retention and participation.
Reach your community members via notifications on messaging apps and allow them to interact with the community right inside the messaging app.
Deliver email digests based on the members’ preferences and activities to bring them back to the community so they interact with content that interests them.
Send instant email notifications whenever the members are interacting with the content. For example, if a member has posted a question and another member answered the same, then an email notification would be sent that someone posted a response or commented.
Send in-community notifications to the members for answers, questions, comments, mentions, and more.
26. Send browser-based notifications and leverage cloud messaging solutions like Firebase to reach members on mobile devices.
Gamification techniques are widely used via businesses to improve engagement and this works especially well in online communities to promote healthy competitions.
Set up automated gamification techniques for common activities, like awarding badges when the member creates five posts, replies, or gives upvotes on another member’s post.
Boost the ego and social status of the members by providing special privileges. For example, the most helpful and active member could be promoted to become a moderator.
Involve your internal team to give special personalized treatment and publicly acknowledge the good contributions of a member. Start by thanking the member of the community.
Apply special badges when your superusers and advocates create detailed content to help peers. This type of content also helps in deflecting support tickets, so they are highly valuable.
Bring in the colleagues into the community since they might have a certain expertise that the community management team might not have. Reward them for participating as well!
Every time a member of the community likes, comments, shares, or posts, they should be awarded several points according to each action. Based on this, you can create a leaderboard system.
Set up an MVP (Most Valuable Person) program to recruit the most active and empathetic members to help with community management, advocacy, and promotion. Check out the Spotify Rock Star program for more inspiration.
Create exclusive groups and add members to those groups when they hit certain milestones in terms of contribution. For example, a group for the members who got 1000 upvotes for a single post.
Consider adding rules for staying in a group -- those rules could be configured to remove members when they become inactive in those groups.
Literally, play games with your members. For example, if you made subtle changes to the product or community UI, then ask the members to spot the difference between new and older screenshots.
Offer swags to the members based on an acquisition milestone. For instance, you could send goodies to every 1,000th member.
Give points to the community members when they share your community content on other third-party sites and popular social networks.
Competitions are yet another type of technique to promote community activities. This is based on incentivizing the members to take certain actions. However, this should not the primary driver of community engagement.
Post a challenge and reward the members who solve the challenge most effectively. For example, the challenge could be around creating something using your product. If you can reward with virtual currencies that can be redeemed to purchase your services, it’d have added advantage.
Leverage Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) by posting short-lived offers and prompt the members to take action. For example, if you are running a sale on your e-commerce store, you can post an exclusive offer for your members and in return ask them to spread the word.
Consider running a “caption this” contest to encourage your members to comment on the images and GIFs and improve brand engagement.
Set a scavenger hunt by hiding clues in your posts and offer a reward to the members who can find the right answers.
Run competitions and encourage users to showcase how they are customizing your solution. It can apply to anything from sneakers to software products.
Create a trivia contest by posting questions around your product, company, or domain in which your business operates. That way you are educating as well as improving the community engagement.
Another way to run a contest is to encourage members to fill in the blank. You can post a statement - “My favorite part of working with <product name> is _____” and ask members to post the complete sentence based on their experience. This can be a way to gather feedback as well.
Run a contest by asking members to associate your brand with celebrities. A great way to assess the members’ perception of your brand personality.
Moderation is critical to ensure that your community remains safe from spammers. Also, it helps you control and eradicate members who would potentially harm the engagement in your community by demotivating other members.
Ensure that you have a solid community guideline and members are aware of the code of conduct. You can include the link to the guidelines during the onboarding process.
Never put a blanket ban on the type of content -- the last thing you want for your members is to be apprehensive of posting content out of fear.
Promptly take care of the reported content and use the judgment to take action. For example, a content border on self-promotion might be actually vital content for the community.
A customer who clearly understands the solutions you offer and exactly how to leverage everything at their disposal is the one you can consider fully empowered. With empowerment comes confidence and the belief that they can recommend the product to others. Given below are some of the ways to educate the members.
Create webinars to showcase how your offerings add value and share the same in your community to propagate the message.
Create resources based on problems that your members are facing and share in your community. For instance, if your support team is receiving high-volume tickets related to a specific issue, you can create questions in your community, provide answers, and facilitate discussions.
Invite industry leaders to your community and conduct AMAs to help the members learn best practices.
Create a section in your community to allow members to share their experiences and learnings so the peers can also get the benefit.
Send monthly or bi-weekly newsletters with the best content curated from the community.
Host AMA sessions by inviting your product team and directly connecting them with the customers. This is also a great opportunity to unlock the tribal knowledge base.
Ensure that the most popular and high-quality posts in the community are clearly displayed and easily accessible. This prompts the members to actively participate and contribute. For example, you can create a section called “Editor’s pick”.
Use your super fans to share video testimonials about how they use your products and how your product makes their lives easier.
Empower the members to request answers from other members with the right expertise. In fact, if the community platform can automatically detect the expertise of the member and suggest the right members to get answers from, the community engagement can increase automatically.
Create Product Therapy sessions to address the ambiguous sections of your product and areas in which your customers are facing the maximum difficulty. You can source the pain points based on the support tickets and customer communication.
Have fun and celebrate
It is important to enjoy and celebrate in your community as moments of success need to be shared and cherished. This inspires the members and allows them to get involved.
Showcase how the existing members are achieving different milestones and successfully implementing your solutions. Celebrate the small bits of success with the entire community.
Create content that would most likely drive engagement based on the data that you gather from the way different posts perform in the community. For example, content from certain topics and themes might generate better engagement in comparison to others.
Look into the content formats like videos that are more engaging than traditional formats such as text and images. For example, you can create video-based online sessions as icebreaking events.
Create live streams on specified days or special occasions to involve the community members with your brand. For example, if you are celebrating Halloween, do a live stream to keep the members engaged with your internal event.
You can also schedule a time to hang out with the members in a virtual setup via Zoom call. Consider this as a digital event with all the things that an in-person event would have.
Surprise and delight your members to improve the community experience. For example, a simple thank-you note along with a gift voucher for the most active members or valuable members goes a long way.
Create valuable networks
Networks are the lifeblood of your community -- the more intricate, widespread, and valuable connections you form in the community, the better the engagement. It also highly impacts the longevity of the community.
Enable members to follow or connect so they get notified whenever there is an update.
Create sub-communities or niche interest groups inside the community to bring like-minded people closer and enable yet another channel for member discovery. A popular way to approach this is to create groups for members from different locations.
Ensure your internal team is not always jumping first into the discussion or responding to criticism. If you hold back and let a community answer and solve the issue via peer-to-peer value delivery, it’d have a much powerful impact on networking.
Create “Happy Hour” hangouts via virtual meetups by randomly grouping different members and enable networking.
Creating and establishing culture is highly valuable since that will set the tone of the community. It will also enable members to learn how they should interact with each other. And new members will adopt this culture to assimilate with peers.
Consider assigning a name to the members of your community. For example, avid users of popular social Twitter, are called “Twitterati”. This type of symbol and internally used terms can uniquely bind the members.
Create a “Cheers for peers” space for the members to nominate a peer who has been the most helpful to them or the community overall.
Set an internal culture to ensure that every question receives an acknowledgment or a form of response within 24 to 48 hours.
Time to improve community engagement
That was a compilation of the top community engagement tactics. Now, it's time for you to put these ideas into action by modifying and improving them. At Bettermode, we're ready to help you with a tailored community engagement plan based on your exact requirements and stage of the community.
Director of Marketing, Bettermode
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